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Thursday, December 28, 2006

Destination Emirates Day One: Touchdown Heathrow

0940 hours.
20 December 2006.

I think I waited a lifetime for that time and date. I am one who believes in destiny. And should destiny still be on my side, I will be on that plane heading for Heathrow Airport for my inaugural EPL match.

And made it I did. Woke up early that morning (who wouldn't?). Could hardly sleep the night before thinking of the endless lists I brought along for the journey: Things to bring, stuffs to buy, souvenirs for who and of course, Virgin's 101 list of things to do in London (thanks Mooke). I'll list down what I managed to do there. Not 101 of course, but heck at least I tried :P
Okay, so I'm a list-freak. But that by no means makes me an organised person. I love preparing for a vacation. I'd crawl the Web, ask around and make lots of lists. It just gets me going, even if it's a trip to Brunei (yawnn)

But Heathrow was no Brunei, which explained me being the first one there at 7.30am in KLIA. We were supposed to meet up at Mickey D's before we checked-in. First person I met there was Shaun. Nice fella. Big Liverpool fan and I mean BIG. We already met at the Live Viewing Party and chit chatted about the contest and the Star article which yours truly was interviewed on. Now the whole of Malaya knows my job.

Second to arrive was Chin and then, Kumar. Chin is the guy from Toyota who will be accompanying us on the trip. Basically he planned the whole trip so it was good, really good to see him. Kumar was one of the winners and a veteran of big football matches. He's won prizes to Euro 2000, World Cup 2002, Old Trafford twice (who wants to go to Old Trafford twice??) and Malaysia Cup Final. I made up the part about the Malaysia Cup by the way.

Kumar's a Liverpool fan too. And last but not least, we have David from Penang who got on the morning flight from Bayan Lepas that morning itself. I don't know which team David actually supports though, but I guess it must be a team with a full trophy cabinet :P

Things didn't start well for some of us though, as Kumar forgot....yeap forgot his passport when we wanted to check-in. I guess people have second chances so he was given a later flight at 11am. Not much of a difference, but it wasn't to be later on.

Hopped on board flight MHforgothenumber with empty seats everywhere. We also learned that there was another set of winners from the service center contest which will be joining us on the trip. There was Firdaus and his wife, Aida and Punithan and his dad. Accompanying them was well-reserved Mr. Peter. So all in all there was 10 of us making the trip to the Emirates.

I was lucky to have a great bunch of travelling mates for this long trip. Vin Diesel-lookalike Firdaus is a fun guy. You can talk to him about anything. Puni is a very, very talkative guy. He can talk to you about anything. I didn't get his dad's name, but I just called him Sir or Uncle depending on the situation.

The inflight entertainment FYI who wants to know, was aplenty. But 10+ hours into the flight, you kinda get bored of seeing Jim Carrey's Mask or watching Office jokes.
*Things I learned on the plane: The Office (US version) is a company based in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Where my dad studied. Another famous movie that's based in Scranton is the bowling epic, Kingpin. That's all thanks.

We reached Heathrow at around 4.00 pm local time and my first view of England is well...errr nothing. The fog was so thick you can hardly see the tip of the wing. We later learned that all BA domestic flights were cancelled that day due to the fogs. Am I bringing some bad luck here or something?

Got off the plane only to notice this petite Chinese girl making her way out as well. It's Rufina Tan! She won the Asian Games gold for sailing? laser? optimist? something with sails lahh
Quickly congratulated her for the superb performance in Qatar. Learned that the sailing team is on their way to Argentina for a tourney, transit via Heathrow. OMG, she's like barely 15 and making round the world trips? Life is soooo....alaaa u know lah.

Little did I know then that meeting her was one of the many lucky breaks that I'll get on this trip. We were greeted at the airport by another petite girl in the form of our Japanese tour guide. Why Japanese? In London? Seems that she's working with the Japanese tour company that organised our visit here. Toyota? Japanese? See the connection? Okay.

I didn't get her name but she's cute nonetheless. Took us on a minivan to our hotel, the Holiday Inn Oxford Circus. The place was nice and cosy. Well you couldn't expect much from a hotel room that side of London. Small, but still sleep-able. But I'm not here in London to sleep, am I?

Dinner was at 6 at this place called the Farmhouse. It seemed that Toyota was generous enough to feed us as well here, 3 times a day. It was a nice, small restaurant which served the salmon nicely. I could have been hungry but still I enjoyed it. They served ice-cream for dessert which was okay if you were in sweating-hot KL. This was after dark with -1 on the thermometer outside. Add to that the kampung kid from Seremban who's not even used to his air-conditioned room at work and you got me shaking like an old vibrator. It was bloody cold I tell ya.

After dinner we made our way back to the hotel for some very much needed rest. I hardly slept in the plane, occupying myself with The Family Guy and some sudoku. It's been a long journey and I needed to hit the sack. Kumar was supposed to be my roommate but he's not here yet. Ahhh..he's a big boy. I curled up under the covers and treated myself to some z's.

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